In at least three chapters, Naked Conversations mentions Kryptonite, the bike lock company, who failed to respond to a blogosphere frenzy in September 2004. We cite them as an unglossed example in Chapter 10—Doing it Wrong. We cover them yet again in our soon-to-be-posted Chapter 13 “Blogging in a Crisis,” as an example of the bad things that happen when a company doesn’t do exactly that.
We are guilty of having used online resources, particularly a Fortune Magazine article as our primary resources, never contacting the company itself. So they took the initiative and contacted us. Donna M. Tocci, Kryptonite’s PR manager, has proven do be anything but unresponsive. She is clearly passionate and more of an authority on the subject than we are. Through a series of email conversations, she has argued her company’s case to us in compelling form revealing several insights we had not previously heard.
We want to know what you think.
Following are excerpts from our conversations taken from her email stiiched together from several emails that have vollleyed back-and-forth over the past several days. While we have extracted and stitched, we have taken care to remain true to her cont
In the first two-three weeks we worked 18-20 hour days, every day, to formulate a plan regarding the locks and reply to the folks that were coming to us - consumers, dealers, distributors and media. Again, not being able to rewrite history, we just didn't have the man or woman power to go and answer every forum question or blogger comment - and there were quite a few, as you know. As the weeks went on and I did comment on some inaccuracies, we were blasted for 'not getting it'. Apparently, you aren't supposed to correct bloggers.Being new to the space, admittedly, we backed off a little bit at that time because, we really didn't need to rile up anyone else.
At that point, we were headed to our largest tradeshow of the year to talk to all of our dealers (a fact the blogosphere didn't know either) at the end of September where we were arguably one of the more busy booths. We also were in the midst of the lock exchange program in the Fall, which, as I mentioned was and is our top priority. To be honest, as we turned Fall into Winter and then into Spring we wanted to move past this issue and was stirring up the hornet's nest worth it? We did talk to some media who are active online in the Spring just to give them an update and explain some of the inaccuracies. Most wasn't printed because of the sensational aspect of the 'disaster' back in September, which was rehashed. So much for that plan.”
“Saying that if we had a blog back in September may have helped our situation is probably a correct statement. Saying that we wouldn't have been working 18-20 hours a day because we had a blog is not accurate. Communicating to our customers was only one piece, albeit an important piece, of the equation. Remember, we still had to get new locks into production 4 months before schedule, find a way to ship them here from Asia, get a registration program in place, figure out how to get locks to consumers, dealers and distributors and get all the software programs to 'play nice' together. We did all this by working all those hours. We did most of that all in 8 business days.
“We also have many customers that, believe it or not, do not follow blogs or forums for whatever reason. Those customers continued to call and email. Distributors, dealers, consumers and media all needed individual attention, and got it from us. They also relied on traditional media, who were still calling and emailing us at a rapid rate at that point. You both know, from years of experience, that the media want their own story. There is only so much they will pick up from a blog or website- they want a scoop. They need to talk to you in person. Get a quote that is all their own. And they got it from either me or from the head of Action Sports.
“As you mentioned in your chapter, yes, there were lots of meetings and lots of planning before we announced our full plan. Countless. However, please give this a thought - if we didn't have all of our ducks in a row, announced the plan and then couldn't follow through with that plan for whatever reason (manufacturing, shipping, software) what would have been good about that? Don't you think that would have made the issue even worse? We absolutely did.
So...would a blog have helped? To your point, quite possibly. Would it have solved our issues? No.
As for showing our customers we care well, again, we might differ on this point. We may not have communicated as well as we should have in September (you are thinking 'understatement'), but what we did do and have continued to do is stand by our customers, all of our customers, without exception.
That got lost along the way as people have been using us as an example of what not to do. How about what we did do? We were not the only company that used tubular cylinders. However, we are the only company that has implemented a plan of this magnitude worldwide. We stopped selling all tubular cylinder products immediately, including ones that were not effected. We have replaced hundreds of thousands of locks worldwide, much to the delight of the majority of our customers. Imagine having a 15-20
year old lock, that you have used regularly, being replaced with a brand new one at no cost to you.
A point where I'd agree with you in your chapter is that there wasn't as much detailed coverage about the lock exchange program in the media or on blogs as there was of the 'crisis'. Why? Again, with your collective experience, you understand that controversy 'sells'. Turn on your local news at night. How many good stories do you see? Or is it all about crime, death, accidents, fires etc? I'll bet you don't see stories on too many of the good things that are happening every single day in your community. Same thing on blogs. When they were railing on Kryptonite there were hundreds of comments. When Kryptonite stepped up to the plate, not so much. And that isn't just about Kryptonite, we are but one example. It is, sadly, something that happens all the time. I hardly ever turn on my local news because of this; it's too depressing. World news isn't much better now is it?
I have learned enough to know that the blogosphere is huge and one person can't respond to every single blog entry about a company in the midst of a crisis. Especially if they don't have their own blog. What one person, or a small company, can do it research, before a crisis hits, which is always a time challenge, isn't it? But now more important than ever! In that research, identify a list of folks to keep informed should a crisis hit - traditional media as well as recognized, credible bloggers. At least that is what we've done. Might still not be 'right', but we are getting there.)
We asked Donna a few questions:
1. I see you are now carefully watching the blogosphere for comments on your company. When did you start doing so and why?
Yes, we do watch the blogosphere pretty closely. We've watched blogs and forums for awhile, even previous to September [when the Kryptonite crisis occurred], however, it is a much bigger part of my weekly activities since then. Watching and monitoring what is being said is one thing, jumping into it is another. Blogs are a new adventure and there is a learning curve. I visit about 20 blogs daily, just like I go to bicycleretailer.com or bikebiz.com or any other information source. Yours is on that list, by the way. I also go to some of the blog search engines and look for tidbits of information that we might want to monitor.
There is a lot of incorrect information out there about the issue in September and, personally, that gets frustrating to read over and over. For example, all of this didn't start with a blogger at all. What I find interesting is that so many people in the blogosphere have told our story with such certainty, yet have never contacted me or asked for any of the correct information. I'm more than happy to share our information - good or bad, which is why I'm so glad you emailed today. Generally, I look at it like a game of telephone when I was a kid....you say something to the person next to you, who repeats it to the person next to them and so on and so on. By the time the 10th person hears it and recites it, it's been changed, but taken as fact. Then that 'fact' is repeated again and again.
2. Is Kryptonite considering starting a blog? Why or why not?
We have tossed around the idea of creating a Kryptonite blog in the last few months. At first we decided against it because would anyone really want to hear about locks all the time? Truly, think about that. A large company like Microsoft has a variety of things to talk about, but a lock company? A month or so later, we revisited the idea and came up with a few variations of 'just locks', but then the 'who' is an issue. We only have 25 people here at Kryptonite. Although this is still a learning process for us, we do know that if we ever did a blog, it couldn't come from me, the dreaded PR person. So, in a long, round about way, the answer is 'not at this time." We haven't given up on the idea, but for now, we are still focusing on getting all of the new locks out to our customers, which has been our top priority all along.
At the risk of being 'too PR' I do want to tell you that in nine months we have replaced over 350,000 locks to consumers, dealers and distributors worldwide. Does that matter? To the blogosphere, I don't know, but it matters very much to us, because, at the end of the day, and in the middle of the day and at the beginning of the day, we do care about our customers. End "PR Speak."
3. Knowing what you now know, how would Kryptonite have responded to the
BIC picking revelation today as opposed to how you handled it when
the story broke?
I'm so glad you asked me this. To answer it correctly, let me go backwards for a minute. It's been said, over and over, that Kryptonite "ignored" the issue for days until some article or other came out and 'made' us look at the issue. There's that game of telephone again. The first day of the claim that 'all Kryptonite locks' were bad we quickly looked into it to see if there was any validity to it. At that time we also answered any emails that came in about this claim that we were working on the possible issue and would get back to them within 24-48 hours. Now, in hindsight, maybe we should have posted this statement on the website. But, at the time, we didn't know what the potential issue was, if there was any issue at all. All the talk of us 'knowing' about this for years simply is not true.
The next two days were spent fielding calls from customers and reporters - yes, I was talking to the media right from the beginning. I fielded over a hundred media requests in that first week. Our customer service team talked or wrote to all consumers that called or emailed in those first few days. Most important, we needed to formulate a plan for our customers and began to do so. We put out formal statements to the media by mid-week (you are thinking 'archaic', but I can't change history) and by the end of the week with a plan outline (day 4 and 5), which also went on our website. I know people wanted answers more quickly because the Internet is just about real time. However, the back end logistics of putting something like a lock exchange program together are quite detailed. Could we have posted information by earlier on our site? Sure. It still would have been basically 'we're working on it'.
Yes, we could have posted to the website earlier, but other than that, there wasn't much different we could do. We made the conscious decision to not answer questions on forums for a few reasons. Most of our communications to consumers via email or telephone were posted to forums almost immediately. If you'd like to talk more about all of this or get more details, just give me a ring and I'll be happy to talk to you about it. I just envision your eyes glazing over at this point in this long email!
As for what we'd do completely different now, I can say that while we were a casual observer of blogs before, we're now starting to create relationships with some bloggers. Not to push our information on, but just to start a dialog and have an open line of communication. If, goodness forbid, something like this happens again, I'd hope either those folks would come to me for information or I could give them correct information and they'd decide if they wanted to talk about it or not.
We have asked our publisher to hold off on Chapter 10 pending revisions. We are holding off on revisions until we hear from you.